When You Are
Asked to Give...A Donor's Guide to
Charitable organizations play a critical role in
meeting a wide range of community needs. Housing and clothing for the poor,
medical care for the sick, programs for children and the disabled- these and
many other services are provided by legitimate
charities that depend largely on private contributions to carry out their
Sometimes, however, your contributions never reach those truly in
need. Instead, those dollars end up in the hands of a
professional fund-raiser or go to excessive administrative overhead and expenses.
In the most troubling cases, funds are solicited for a charity that does not exist or an event that never takes place.
Despite the activities of a few unscrupulous
solicitors, there are many organizations that need - and deserve - our support. To help sort the
good from the bad, this brochure is designed to better acquaint you with the
laws and rules regulating charities in our state. It also describes the warning
signs of suspicious solicitations and suggests the questions you should ask
before contributing to a charity.
Through wise giving, we all can assure that our
charitable dollars are helping those truly in need.
- Charities are required to maintain a current
registration file with the Secretary of State. That file should include the official name
and mailing address of the organization, the name of executive officers and other
management personnel, the purpose of the organization, the past history of the charity and
detailed financial information.
- Financial statements filed by the charity may
be reviewed by contacting the Secretary of State's office.
- Georgia law requires that charities or paid
solicitors in their solicitations disclose their name
and location and the name and location of any paid fund-raiser. The charity or
paid solicitor must also inform you that a full description of the charitable program and financial statement
will be provided upon request.
- Registration indicates that the Secretary of
State's office maintains certain information about the charity. It is not an
endorsement of the charity's operations or charitable programs. It is
important to check the registration of any charity before contributing.
- Be wary of high pressure or threatening telephone
promoters. If you are solicited by phone, ask that the individual put their request in writing and
provide complete information about the charitable program. A fund-raiser more interested in making a profit than assisting
a charity will cut off questions to move on to a more likely prospect.
- Celebrity names may not carry as much weight as
you are led to believe. Often the celebrity is unaware that his or her
name is being used for promotion by the charity.
- Police officers, sheriffs, state law
enforcement agencies and paid fire departments cannot solicit from the
public; however, their unions and social organizations can.
- Watch out for organizations that use questionable
techniques such as sending unordered merchandise or invoices after you have turned them
down for a donation. You are under no obligation to pay for or return items received under
- Be skeptical of organizations which list only post
office boxes, mail drop suites, or out-of-state addresses and phone numbers. Be
particularly cautious of couriers willing to rush out to your home or office to pick up
- Not all organizations with charitable sounding
names are authentic charities. Many
"for-profit" businesses are now using names that sound like charities.
What to Ask
- What is the exact purpose of the charity? If an
event is to be held, what is the name of the sponsoring organization? Who is in charge?
Get specific names.
- Is the person seeking donations a paid employee or
a volunteer? For whom does the individual work - the charity or a professional
- Is there an address and/or phone number where the solicitor
and the charity can be reached?
- What percentage of your contribution will the
charity receive? In some instances a large percentage of your contribution will pay
for administrative functions and overhead.
- Is the organization registered with the Secretary
of State as a charitable organization?
- Will the money donated be used in Georgia and, if
so, in the city or county in which you live?
- Does the organization have tax-exempt status? Is
your contribution tax-deductible?
- Is the organization controlled by an unsalaried
governing board or a salaried staff? Ask for a copy of the organization's most recent
financial report. If purchasing an advertisement, ask for a copy of the publication.
There are several ways you can check out
organizations that solicit you. For questions regarding a charity's state registration
and/or filings, or to report suspicious actions by a solicitor, contact one of the
Responsible for registration, investigation and
Secretary of State
Division of Securities and Business Regulation
Suite 802, West Tower
2 Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive, SE
Atlanta, Georgia 30334
Responsible for investigation and enforcement
regarding unfair and deceptive business practices:
Governor's Office of Consumer Affairs
Plaza Level East Tower, 205 Butler Street, SE
Atlanta, Georgia 30334
Consumer Complaint Intake Center:
Metro Atlanta (404) 651-8600
Outside Metro Atlanta 1-800-869-1123
Provide standards to be met by charities and a
current list of those organizations meeting those standards:
Wise Giving Alliance
4200 Wilson Boulevard
Arlington, VA 22203